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Hockey East Facts and Numbers (November 10, 2014)

Brody Hoffman and the Vermont Catamounts have the best defense in Hockey East through the first month.
Brody Hoffman and the Vermont Catamounts have the best defense in Hockey East through the first month.
Matt Dewkett

It's extremely early in the season, but very few people, if any, had UMass Lowell and Vermont leading the Hockey East standings after a month of play. Here's a look at some numbers that are primary reasons for where teams currently stand.

The struggles of Northeastern have been well chronicled on this site, but as much as people want to point to the defense and goaltending, the offense isn't holding up its end of the bargain. The Huskies are averaging 1.5 goals per game, down from 3.16 last season.

Everyone around Hockey East has long known how tough it is for opponents to face Maine at Alfond Arena, but over the past two seasons it has been equally difficult for the Black Bears to win away from Orono. Since taking over the program Red Gendron is 1-15-3 in true away games, not counting neutral site games where the Black Bears are 2-2.

After only nine games Merrimack is just two wins shy of matching last season's win total of eight. It's a small sample size, just three games, but the Warriors have outscored their opponents 3-0 in the third period in league games so far this season. The ability to finish strong bodes well for Mark Dennehy's team that is bound to be in a lot of tight games based on its style of play.

Despite being the top ranked team nationally among Hockey East teams, Boston University has the worst faceoff percentage of any team in the league. The Terriers' possession numbers have been much better this season than last, but there is still room for improvement.

Connecticut is coming off an upset home win over Boston College and an exciting road tie at Boston University. Sophomore goaltender Rob Nichols has gotten a lot of attention for his performances between the pipes. Rightfully so as he has faced more rubber than any other goaltender in Hockey East, but the Huskies are also blocking more shots than any other team in the league. UConn is allowing 34.56 shots on goal per game, worst in Hockey East, but have a league-best 19.11 blocks per game. Having seen UConn three times now, Mike Cavanaugh and his staff have their players doing a terrific job of getting sticks in lanes, blocking shots and keeping players out of Nichols' sight lines.

Ross Mauermann and Noel Acciari, double digit goal scorers a season, remain without a goal this season through eight games. And another double digit goal scorer last season, Mark Jankowski, has just one. Providence is off to a disappointing 3-4-1 start, but Mauermann is starting to create chances. Look for the Friars to be a team that continues to get better as the season goes along. Remember, PC is still a young team and also having to adjust to a whole new set of assistant coaches.

This writer won't shy away from admitting he saw UMass Lowell taking a dip this season. The River Hawks lost a ton of key pieces at all three positions. What might be most shocking is after losing Joe Pendenza, Scott Wilson, Derek Arnold and high scoring defenseman Christian Folin, UML is leading Hockey East in scoring at a clip of 4.22 goals per game. That is in part due to a league-leading power play, succeeding at 25.7 percent. Defensemen Michael Kapla and Dylan Zink are Norm Bazin's top scorers at nine points each.

Kevin Sneddon's Catamounts are 6-1-1 after being relatively a leftover thought in the preseason. The main reason Vermont has just one loss, a setback in South Bend against Notre Dame, is its stifling defense. UVM leads Hockey East in goals against per game (1.62), penalty killing percentage (92.9) and shots on goal against per game (23.50). It's much easier to play when your team is playing sound fundamentally and staying disciplined. Vermont is the least penalized team in the league at 8.00 penalty minutes per game.

Jerry York's club is off to a .500 start at 4-4-0. The mediocre start is mainly due to Boston College's inability to start and finish games as strongly as it would like. The Eagles have outscored opponents 14-4 in the second period, but are -4 in terms of scoring margin in the first and third periods combined.

Despite being held scoreless in Notre Dame's weekend series at No. 1 Minnesota, Mario Lucia continues to lead all NCAA players in goals with eight. Robbie Russo's plus/minus no longer seems as absurd as it did a few weeks ago, but the New York Islanders defensive prospect is +10.

Frank Vatrano's journey to playing Division I hockey was an arduous one. After a snafu that sent him from BC back to junior hockey before enrolling at UMass and having to sit out all but the team's playoff game last season, the East Longmeadow, Mass. native is finally hitting his stride. He was held scoreless in his first five collegiate games, but now has a four game point streak after Friday's two goals and an assist against AIC.

New Hampshire's goaltending situation has been talked about plenty here and on other outlets after the offseason arrest of senior Casey DeSmith on domestic violence charges. The situation between the crease is far from the only issue plaguing Dick Umile's team through eight games, but a team .881 save percentage is far from where it needs to be. Even with DeSmith last season, UNH's team save percentage fell from .922 in 2012-13 to .912 in 2013-14.


Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.